Sources: Phils in Talks for Roy Oswalt
One source described the talks as "heavy."
Houston "may be close to putting the ball in [Oswalt's] court," the other source said, although he didn't think the trade was down to the finishing touches.
Oswalt (6-11 but with a 3.12 ERA and .220 average allowed) has a full no-trade clause. He said last month he wants to go to a team that "pretty much" is a sure thing to make the postseason this year. That might mean Philadelphia -- third in the NL East and sixth in the wild-card race -- would have to convince Oswalt he would push them into the playoffs.
Philadelphia's need for pitching increased this week when Kyle Kendrick pitched poorly Monday and got sent down Tuesday, and was deepened when Jamie Moyer left his Tuesday start with an injury. Moyer was placed on the disabled list with a strained left elbow after the game, which the Phillies lost 7-1 to the Cardinals.
In talking to reporters Tuesday in St. Louis, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro hinted that he was exploring deals that would bring him a starting pitcher.
"[J.A.] Happ is a possibility [to start Saturday]," Amaro said, in reference to the rotation spot opened by Kendrick's demotion. "We would consider him, and we have other balls in the air."
Happ will almost certainly come up now, either to replace Kendrick or Moyer, but Philadelphia will need another starter to get it through the weekend.
Earlier this season, Oswalt asked Houston, mired below .500, to explore trading him to a contender. But the Astros wanted any trade partner to take on all of Oswalt's contract (the remainder of this year's $15 million, $16 million in 2011 and either $16 million in 2012 or a $2 million buyout) and surrender top prospects.
One way the Phillies could clear space for Oswalt is by getting another big contract off their books. That's where right fielder Jayson Werth could figure into the equation. The Phillies were trying to move Werth in concert with their pursuit of a starting pitcher, according to an ESPN report. Werth, due to be a free agent in the offseason, is making $7 million in 2010.
St. Louis, meanwhile, was also believed to be trying to get a starter, with its focus on Cleveland's Jake Westbrook and Arizona's Dan Haren.
With Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse on the disabled list, the Cardinals over the past two months have gotten just two quality starts from a pitcher other than Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter or Jaime Garcia.
FanHouse's Steve Phillips contributed to this report.